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Building your own house is a fantastic project to take on; fantastic, but ambitious!

There are several reasons why someone may want to look at building their own home. In many cases it can be cheaper than buying a finished property, especially since stamp duty only needs to be paid on the cost of the land involved rather than the build itself. Building a property from the ground up also makes it much cheaper to incorporate features like underfloor heating or to ensure that a home is as eco-friendly as possible.

Whatever your reason for wanting to build your own house, it is not a project which you should take on lightly. Building a house can be surprisingly complex, to the extent that Britain has one of the lowest proportions of new build properties in Europe. 

In other words, it is important to be prepared: as well as needing a top quality architect for your plans, you will also need to find an excellent local builder and a qualified structural engineer. When it comes to finding the land for your project, a local estate agent will make the process much easier, while a mortgage broker will be able to help you to prepare your finances.

As long as you are willing to do your research, plan carefully and consider all of your options, you should have no trouble building your very own house!

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Getting a Mortgage and Budgeting for a Self Build

Finding the best way to finance a self build project is a step that puts many people off. Truthfully, there are several different aspects to consider for such a self build and failing to consider them early on can lead to major financial difficulties down the line.

The first thing to do is to find a mortgage for your self build. Due to the complex and fluid nature of the financial market, you may want to consider hiring a local mortgage broker to help here. Unlike a bank, a mortgage broker will be able to look at competing plans to find the best one to suit you.

One thing that you will hear bout quickly is ‘self build mortgages’. Unlike with standard mortgages, the money from self build mortgages is released in several stages, in line with the ongoing costs of a building project. This simply ensures that the money is spent as intended, making it a safer investment for the lender.

A major advantage to securing a self build mortgage is that stamp duty will only need to be paid when you buy the land for your build. If your chosen plot is worth £125,000 or less, you can even avoid paying stamp duty altogether! The disadvantages are that self build mortgages tend to be more expensive and usually require a more sizeable deposit up front.

Of course, buying land is just one financial aspect of paying for your new build. You will also need to plan and budget for:

  • Cost of materials, fixtures and fittings
  • Ongoing mortgage repayments
  • Costs for paying tradesmen
  • Living costs while your project is underway. Do you have somewhere you can stay in the meantime?

Planning a Self Build 

If you are determined to build your own house, keep this in mind: you cannot afford to leave anything to chance. A new build property can be worth as much as 20-30% more than its construction costs, but this is not guaranteed, especially if you fail to plan and budget for each stage of your project.

The first step to planning your self build will be deciding on what kind of property you want, so start by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need?
  • How big will each individual room need to be? This should include the size of the kitchen and garden
  • How much space are you likely to need in the future? Do not give yourself more space than you need, unless you are happy to spend more on council tax
  • What materials are you planning to use? 
  • Are there any non-standard features you would want to include?

Do not feel too put off by these questions, as there are plenty of financial incentives for building your own property. For example, if you purchase your building materials from a VAT registered supplier, you can claim the VAT back at the end of your build. Taking the time to consider each of these points early on will also be far less painful than suddenly having to make impromptu decisions down the line.

Something that you cannot afford to ignore for your self build is planning permission. This should really be in place before you even purchase land for your project. As such, it can be extremely useful to speak to your local planning authority early on, even before you start thinking about your mortgage. You should also keep in mind that in order to secure planning permission, you will most likely need to have your plans scrutinised by a structural engineer.

While you will need full planning permission before you can start construction, you can apply for ‘outline planning permission’ in the meantime. This is essentially when you get permission to use a plot for a certain type of development and can be a big help in securing a mortgage. However, if you successfully get outline permission, you must remember to make a ‘reserved matters’ application within three years, in accordance with the type of build you put forward in your initial proposal.

Finding Trade Professionals for a Self Build

To start planning the build itself, your first step should be to find a top notch architect. As well as making sure that your project is granted planning permission, an architect will be able to help keep the work in line with your budget, local building regulations and, of course, your vision for your future home. Incorporating unique features is also much easier with the help of an experienced architect, especially when it comes to using non-standard materials.

As with hiring anyone, however, it will be important to make sure that your architect will be a good fit for you. After making sure that they have the necessary qualifications to work as an architect in the UK, look over each candidate’s past projects; if they have worked on self builds similar to yours in the past, their experience could be invaluable! It will also be important to check any reviews left by their previous customers to make sure that they can work to your standards.

You will then need to decide exactly how much of your project you will be doing yourself. If you are keen to save money, you can certainly consider doing aspects such as interior design or decorating on your own. Having said that, certain tasks should be left to professionals. Your choice of builder, for example, should easily get as much consideration as your architect.

You should also compare the cost of hiring trade professionals alongside the potential benefits for your new house. Work done by professional plasterers, painters, plumbers and so on will have a much higher quality and last longer than DIY work, and you will also be able to benefit from having warranties on any work done.

Finding Land for a Self Build

Naturally, one of the most crucial parts of a self build project is finding the ideal plot of land to build on! 

This is a big task, but there is one piece of advice that will be a huge help going forward: do not, under any circumstances, try to judge the value of a plot of land based on local averages alone. While these can be useful, they can hide individual features that can drastically affect the value of a plot.

The truth is that the value of land can vary substantially not just across the UK but also within local regions. This is simply because of the sheer number of variables involved; when considering a potential plot for your self build, you should ask yourself:

  • Does the land have good transport access? Is it close to any roads? This will be important for facilitating your build, but if you are too close to busy major roads then it could impact your standard of living
  • Is the land on a floodplain? Is it under a flight path? Does the public have right of way?
  • Are there any covenants on the land? If so, who is the beneficiary?
  • Are there any other planned developments close by?
  • Is the plot large enough to suit your plans?
  • How steep is the site?
  • What is the neighbour situation like? Will nearby properties be overlooking yours?
  • Are there any services nearby, such as schools or hospitals?
  • Does the plot enjoy good views?

While it might sound like a pain, it will be important to ask these questions for each and every site you come across if you want to find an ideal plot for the right price. Hiring a local estate agent

to help can be a big help here, especially one with good local knowledge and a history of selling similar plots in the past. 

If you want to increase your chances of finding the best land for your project, the solution is to widen your net: you can look for available plots of land via estate agents, property websites, local land auctions and even your local council. If you spot a piece of undeveloped land next to a farm or business, take the time to contact the owner and ask what it would take for them to part with it.

Above all else, try not to get too excited with any particular piece of land. Making an offer without asking the appropriate questions could result in you paying more than you need to, or in a worst case scenario you could end up with land which you can’t even use!